Of the two artists in the current exhibit at the Gomez Gallery, Christine Neill makes the louder statement. Neill's eight still lifes seem electrified. At first glance, these watercolor paintings suggest a surreal human form.
A closer look shows the form to be the blossom and stem of a flower. The flower bows, bends sideways, or backward, or forward. It catches a bright light, then emits the sheer energy of a brighter light.
Neill, professor of painting and drawing at the Maryland Institute College of Art, does not merely paint flowers in these larger-than-life paintings. She paints dancing flowers. She paints HTC energy. She paints the force that drives the green fuse of life.
Neill's watercolors of palm trees and ferns, which were on display at the Gomez Gallery in June 1995, were contemplative. The forms seemed to undulate in quiet greens and yellows, as if they were underwater.
In Neill's current work, those quiet colors have been replaced by sheer exuberance.
This is the energy caught in a time-lapse film of a flower coming to bloom.
"Under the Amaryllis Moon," the first painting in Neill's show, is a triptych. Each panel shows a flower bathed in red, yellow, gold, and orange light. In each, the flower stands as if caught in a dance pose.
"Three Under a Strawberry Moon," another triptych, shows the same flower catching strawberry red light. Here the energy becomes even more sensuous through the predominance of red and purple.
Neill uses mostly blues and purples in the seven-foot-high "Proteus" and "Seven Foot Roger," as red flowers intertwine on blue and purple backgrounds. The blue tones give the pictures a quieter air that is more reminiscent of Neill's earlier work.
The other half of this exhibit, "the everything and the nothing" by Mercedes Teixido, is the soul of quiet. That quiet can be felt in the 22 minimalist drawings and miniature sculptures in this tastefully arranged installation.
The drawings consist of ink and red thread sewn through white paper. Teixido draws her images in thread. Sometimes the design resembles a maze; sometimes the design looks like a large piece of cloth; some of the images have a funnel shape. Inside the figures are chairs and/or ladders.
In some works, the chairs face each other or face away from each other, as if symbolizing a spiritual condition. In some, the chair seems caught inside the net, suggesting that the viewer is caught by circumstances. The ladder appears as if it were a metaphor in a poem. It rests on a tightrope or flies above it, its position implying what can be felt but not said.
Teixido, a former professor of art at the University of Maryland Baltimore County who teaches at Pomona College in California, has been inspired by Eastern philosophy. She is concerned with paradox: "With these tiny images I am searching for a sense of enormity," she writes in her artist's statement. She describes her work as depicting "places of fear, frustration, and blindness potent in what they reveal about ourselves."
The dollhouse-size sculptures inside bell jars seem especially representative. In one, white thread has unraveled from a miniature spool. In another, a ladder rests against a mountain of paperwork -- on whose summit are tufts of green grass.
Teixido's blend of whimsy and seriousness suggests a combination of fairy tale ("Rumplestiltskin" and "The Myth of Sisyphus" come to mind) and Japanese haiku. Ultimately, her work has a poetic quality. It represents states of feeling. It does not mean. It simply is.
What: Mercedes Teixido and Christine Neill
Where: 836 Leadenhall St., Federal Hill
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays (through Sept. 14)
Call: (410) 752-2080
Pub Date: 8/14/96